Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

As we dream, by the fire ...

New emissions standards would reduce the air pollution from wood stoves and fireplace inserts

As we dream, by the fire ...

In all but the most efficient woodstoves, pollution emitted for heat generated is higher than for other fuels, research says.
In all but the most efficient woodstoves, pollution emitted for heat generated is higher than for other fuels, research says. istockphoto.com

Yes, I'm home by the fire today. And isn't it nice and toasty?

In my defense, I have a fireplace insert with a catalytic cumbustion chamber that significantly reduces the air pollution associated with burning wood.

I wrote a column about this in Sunday's Health Section. The section is printed ahead of time -- on Thursday -- and wouldn't you know that Friday is the day the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chose to propose new emissions standards for wood-burning stoves, inserts and other "residential wood heaters."

So we ran an update as a correction in Sunday's paper -- a rare occurrence, indeed, to run both a story and a correction to it on the same day.

Here's what the EPA had to say about its proposal in a press release:

"The agency’s proposal would make the next generation of stoves and heaters an estimated 80 percent cleaner than those manufactured today, leading to important air quality and public health improvements in communities across the country. The proposal would affect a variety of wood heaters manufactured beginning in 2015 and will not affect heaters and stoves already in use in homes or currently for sale today.

"When these standards are fully implemented, EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to comply with these standards, the American public will see between $118 and $267 in health benefits. Consumers will also see a monetary benefit from efficiency improvements in the new woodstoves, which use less wood to heat homes. The total health and economic benefits of the proposed standards are estimated to be at $1.8 to $2.4 billion annually."

The proposal would not apply to fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens, barbecues and chimineas.

As I wrote in my column, officials at the stove company, Jotul, support stove change-out programs like the one they had last summer.  They say new manufacturing standards won't really result in better air quality if people persist in hanging onto their old models.

But the Alliance for Green Heat welcomed the proposal.  “We can harness the huge demand for this type of renewable energy if the stoves and boilers are clean enough,” said John Ackerly, the alliance's president. “We believe the emissions numbers released by the EPA today are reasonable and achievable and will help the wood stove industry grow in coming decades.”

For more about wood-burning and the EPA proposal, visit the agency's Burn Wise page here.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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